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The Rise of an Early Modern Shipping Industry


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The ancient but isolated town of Whitby has made a huge contribution to the maritime history of Britain: Captain Cook learned sailing and navigation here; during the eighteenth century the town was a provider of an exceptionally large number of transport ships in wartime; and in the nineteenth century Whitby became a major whaling port. This book examines how it came to be such an important shipping centre.
Drawing on extensive maritime records, the author shows that it was commercial entrepreneurship which brought about the growth of Whitby's shipping industry, first in the export of local alum and carrying coal to London, then in northern European trades, alongside its very successful ship-building industry.
The book includes details from the financial accounts of voyages. These provide a fascinating insight into seafaring in the period with details of the hierarchical structure of crews, and of shipboard apprentices learning the trade. Overall, a very full picture emerges of every aspect of the shipping industry of this key port.

ROSALIN BARKER is an Honorary Fellow in the History Department at the University of Hull, and was formerly a tutor in adult education at the universities of Cambridge, Leeds and Hull and the Open University.


A first-rate socio-economic history of an important and fascinating port. AUSMARINE, July 2013

[M]arvelously researched study [...] an excellent example of the "new" regional history, which examines specific pasts within the broader contexts of an historical period. Whitby's vital role in the development of England's early modern maritime trade and commerce has been resurrected in this definitive study. CANADIAN JOURNAL OF HISTORY

Barker is to be congratulated on her thorough use of an extensive and diverse range of local, regional and national archives. The book is groundbreaking in its use of under-exploited primary sources, manuscript and printed.both in record offices and privately held. HISTORY

Rosalin Barker has produced an excellent book which considerably enhances our understanding of Whitby's role in this crucial period of British maritime be strongly recommended to both academic reader and layman alike.THE MARINER'S MIRROR

[A]n absolutely invaluable resource for further research. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF MARITIME HISTORY

Has a great deal to commend it. It is a very readable account, based on original archival research and statistical analysis, that casts this early modern port in an entirely different light. NORTHERN HISTORY

In this excellent and well-researched book Rosalin Barker charts the rise of Whitby's fleet, and of the town and its population.This is a well-written and readable book. BRITISH ASSOCIATION FOR LOCAL HISTORY


First Published: 19 May 2011
13 Digit ISBN: 9781843836315
Pages: 212
Size: 23.4 x 15.6
Binding: Hardback
Imprint: Boydell Press

Details updated on 21 Oct 2015


  • 1  Introduction: A Small Port in Yorkshire
  • 2  Foundations
  • 3  The Early Seventeenth Century
  • 4  Upheaval
  • 5  Stabilisation and Confidence
  • 6  Overview of the Seventeenth Century
  • 7  The Established Port
  • 8  'They That go Down to the Sea in Ships'
  • 9  Conclusion